This was published in subject V1 #2 Winter 1989, a journal started by my friend Alison Brown.
Published by Cynthia Kaufman
Cynthia Kaufman is the Director of the Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action De Anza College where she also teaches Philosophy. She is the author of four books on social change: Challenging Power; Democracy and Accountability in a Fractured World (Bloomsbury 2020); The Sea is Rising and So are We: A Climate Justice Handbook (PM Press 2021); Getting Past Capitalism: History, Vision, Hope (Lexington Books 2012) and Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change (2nd Edition PM Press 2016). She is a lifelong social change activist, having worked on issues such as tenants’ rights, police abuse, union organizing, international politics, and most recently climate change. She received her PhD and M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and her B.A. in Development Studies from University of California, Berkeley. View all posts by Cynthia Kaufman
One thought on “Foucault and a Feminist Theory of Difference”
Having studied social science, I have especially enjoyed reading your posts.
I have downloaded the pdf document entitled “Foucault and a Feminist Theory of Difference”. It has been a while since I last saw such an old publication from the 1980s. I have thrown a lot of mine out some years ago in order to make room for my thousands of books and monographs.
Though much of modern science has divorced from philosophy, the latter is still very important. I would like to contend that whilst the History, Philosophy and Mythology of Science can be deemed as an Unholy Triumvirate, the History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science is definitely a holy alliance. Sociology includes the study of myths, and the social science includes sociology, anthropology, archaeology and criminology.
Regarding sociohistorical viewpoints, one way of looking at the problem or issue of social construction is through the works of Michel Foucault, a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas whom we both admire, and who has been well credited for his critical studies of social institutions, most notably psychiatry (Madness and Civilization), social anthropology of medicine (The Birth of the Clinic), the human sciences (The Order of Things, The Archaeology of Knowledge, The History of Sexuality) and the prison system (Discipline and Punish), at least to the extent that the social construction of history is an (un)necessary evil, so to speak. The explication and insightful analysis of critical theory and ethics in relation to Foucault and Habermas in the light of social/moral philosophy and postmodernism can shed some good insights.
History, philosophy and science are not immune to the pitfalls of following the default framework, the prevailing theoretical perspective, the dominant paradigm, and the latest trend or pop ideology. On the one hand, historians and philosophers should be empirically informed by the sciences most relevant to their work. On the other hand, scientists should have at least some historical awareness and philosophical training before assuming narrow interpretations of the data that they are compiling. In short, historians, philosophers and scientists alike need to collaborate to draw accurate and responsible interpretations and conclusions. Hence, I have always adopted a multidisciplinary approach, however difficult and challenging that approach may be(come).
In addition, I wonder whether we can hope for some fundamental changes and sustainable improvements over the next decade or two. When one looks at the great number of schools, theories and disciplines within criminology and criminal law, and when one sees the ongoing anomie, social fracturing, cultural tribalism and escalating polarization plaguing many regions of the world, one would like to hope that some long-term solutions could be found in spite of the steady decline of some traditional customs and institutions amidst the rapid social and technological changes faced by contemporary societies and peoples. I, for one, am not very optimistic.
I am delighted to have come across your writings. Wishing you a productive week doing or enjoying whatever that satisfies you the most!